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Dastardly: (pissed after losing another race) Oh, who wanted to win this old race, anyway? (bursts into teary tantrum) I DID!!! I WANTED TO WIN THE RACE!!! I NEVER GET TO WIN A RACE!!!
Blinding Camera Flash: In one episode, Muttley photographs Penelope Pitstop during the race. Penelope is blinded so severely by the flash that she has to stop driving momentarily.
Bribe Backfire: In "Fast Track to Hackensack", Dick Dastardly changed a speed limit sign from 35 mph to 85 mph. When the Sheriff had the Ant Hill Mob stop, Ring-A-Ding tried to bribe him with a cigar, prompting the Sheriff to say Ring-A-Ding worsened the Mob's case for that.
Broken Aesop: The ending of "Creepy Trip to Lemon Twist" has this. Dick Dastardly just won a race! And by legitimate means, too! How could...oh, it's been recalled and the trophy taken away because...the nose-cone of his car extended on an accordion-thing and crossed the finish line first? How is that gimmick any more deserving of disqualification than everything else on the show?
To add insult to injury, Peter Perfect wins a race in another episode by doing exactly that, and no one complains. Though admittedly, Peter's rear wheels were in front of the competitor behind him when he crossed the finish line, so an extension wouldn't really matter.
The worst part? If you go back and watch the actual footage of the racers crossing the finish line (not the replay) you can clearly see that Dick's car crossed the finish line legitimately. The replay tape is a fake! An in-universe example of Executive Meddling, perhaps?
Probably because Status Quo Is God. Dick Dastardly must always lose, no matter what the other racers do.
Catch Phrase: "Drat and double drat!" for Dick Dastardly; "And the wacky beat goes on" for the Narrator
The Latin American Spanish dub has "¡Caracoles!", which was commonly heard in Latin American Spanish dubs of a number of Hanna-Barbera shows at least in the 1960s and 1970s.
Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Muttley, most notably in "Race to Racine", where he's supposed to sabotage the Ant Hill Mob from within, but ends up sabotaging Dastardly.
Cheaters Never Prosper: Partly subverted. Almost everyone on the show cheats to some extent. However, Dastardly, who is outright malicious about it and deliberately tries to sabotage the other racers, does not prosper.
In the Gold Key issues, the cars are shown running from left to right, whereas they go right to left on the TV show. Also, a running gag on some stories loosely adapted from TV episodes has Penelope Pitstop managing to eliminate Peter Perfect and Red Max by getting them to fight over her. Peter's car in the Gold Key series was called the Varoom Roadster (its working name) and the Ant Hill Mob's car was the Roaring Plenty (identified in the show as such once).
Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: The Trope Namer. In many cases, Dick Dastardly might actually win a race if he wasn't so insistent on setting traps to sabotage the other racers (which always end up backfiring on him).
In most episodes it could be argued that he got that all-important lead not by having the fastest car or sabotaging the other racers, but by taking a short cut on the non-linear route. He'd technically still be in last place, but could place his traps ahead of all the other cars. When they were out of the race, he could return via his shortcut and drive the route properly. But there are also several races that are straight marathons, where it wouldn't work, AND HE STILL CHEATS!
Averted by the Ant Hill Mob in "Free Wheeling to Wheeling":
Clyde: We'll never win at this rate unless we—
Ring-A-Ding: Cheat! Right, boss?
Clyde: Wrong!! Unless we lighten the load, you dum-dum!
Ring-A-Ding: (as the Mob tosses out stolen money, machine guns, etc.) Who says it pays to win? There goes our ill-gotten gains!
To be sure, they do win it.
Lampshaded in the Wacky Races comic book story "Follow Through to Yoo-Hoo" (Gold Key #4, August 1971). All the racers use a book called "How to Win a Race by Hook or Crook," written by Dick Dastardly himself.
The unaired pilot for the revival Wacky Races Forever makes it a certainty. Dastardly (presumably the son of the original) is instructed by a figure in the employ of Peter Perfect (whose son Parker is racing) to just win the race, and he's a yard shy of the finish line, which Muttley points out. Dastardly bonks him on the head and firmly states, "No, Muttley, we can't win fairly. We are villains... ergo we ''have'' to cheat!!"
Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help: Peter Perfect in almost every episode. This cost him the race at least once as he screeched to a halt just before the finish line to avoid running over a cat that had wandered onto the track. Did earn him a new cat, though. Also, Professor Pat Pending frequently stops and uses his car's inventions to help others.
Drives Like Crazy: They're called wacky racers for a reason. Luke sleeping behind the wheel and Penelope doing her make-up or even showering while racing are some of the milder stunts they pull.
Even Evil Has Standards: In "Scout Scatter", the Ant Hill Mob didn't hesitate before risking themselves to save a boy scout from a waterfall even if it meant increasing the chances the sheriff would catch up with them. (they escaped)
Expy: Dick Dastardly is based on the character of Professor Fate from the film The Great Race, although his visual appearance is based on the British comedic villain actor Terry-Thomas.
Failure Is the Only Option: Dick Dastardly's car is much, much faster than the other racers, and would win if he followed the rules. Yet, he cheats and fails every time at it, and loses, often coming to a stop right before the finish line to watch everyone else pass it.
The Fool: If you drove a car by reclining, sleeping and steering with your feet, you would drive about a hundred yards or so before crashing into something. Luke, however, does not need to worry about that.
Although Blubber Bear does plenty of worrying for him.
Fragile Speedster: While Dastardly's Mean Machine is the fastest of the racers, it balances this out with its apparently poor structural integrity. Expect it to get wrecked at least Once per Episode.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Take a good, hard look at the shape of Peter Perfect's car and then try to say that it wasn't intentional on the part of the designers. (Though it may simply be a mashup of a vintage F1 and an old school dragster.)
Generation Xerox: In the Wacky Races Forever pilot, Peter and Penelope's children, Parker and Piper, are racing in vehicles strongly resembling those of their parents.
Goggles Do Nothing: Peter Perfect, Penelope Pitstop, Sawtooth, and Dick Dastardly all have headgear with goggles that never cover their eyes. Red Max occasionally will have his goggles over his eyes.
Have a Gay Old Time: In "Speeding for Smogland", it's revealed that Penelope's car has a vibrating seat. At the time (and in the implication of the dialogue) it was a crank health thing, but nowadays it has differently funny implications when you see a young woman flick a switch on her dashboard marked "VIBRATOR".
His Own Worst Enemy: Dick Dastardly would easily win all the races if he just stopped cheating. While his cheats always backfire of he actually stopped cheating the episode would end in one minute at most.
Honour Before Reason: Peter Perfect tends to help out anyone who's been sabotaged. Especially Penelope.
He even helps Dastardly in "The Super Silly Swamp Sprint," albeit after pulling him and Muttley out of the alligator-filled swamp, Peter throws them and their car in the back of the pack (after which they are catapulted from a tree into the front).
Hopping Machine: One of the Convert-A-Car's alternate forms uses 'Pogo Power'.
Leitmotif: Dick Dastardly had a very prominent theme, which played in pretty much every episode whenever he pulled a trick on the other racers. Penelope Pitstop also had a far less played motif as well.
Literal-Minded: Numerous examples (in the interest of wordplay), at least one of which cost a racer first place; in "By Rollercoaster to Upsan Downs", when Sgt. Blast told Pvt. Meekley to "head for that finish line, and step on it", Meekley hurried to the finish line on foot and planted his foot firmly on the line. He then had to watch as Red Max, the Slag Brothers, and Lazy Luke and Blubber crossed the line in their cars and took the top three spots.
Muttley was also prone to this from time to time; when Dick Dastardly is trapped on the spray from a whale's blowhole in "Eeny Miney, Missouri Go!", he tells Muttley, "Do something! Anything!" Whereupon Muttley does a tap dance... which does qualify as doing something, just not something relevant.
Market-Based Title: In Latin America (and Spain), the show is known as "Los Autos Locos" (lit.: The Crazy Cars); in Japan it's called "Chiki Chiki Mou Race"; in France, the show's name is "Les Fous du Volant" ("The Crazy Drivers").
Moral Dissonance: Dick Dastardly set a lot of traps, yeah, but if the other contestants used their cars' special abilities (one was a tank, one had buzzsaws for wheels, one had a dragon in it, one was an airplane, one could turn into any type of vehicle its driver could imagine, etc.) to gain an advantage or even disable or destroy the other vehicles, nobody even batted an eye. Only Dick was considered to be cheating.
"Free Wheeling to Wheeling" may indicate that Clyde was based on Clyde Barrow of Bonnie & Clyde fame:
Clyde: All right, you mugs...everybody out and push!
Ring-A-Ding: Aw, gee Clyde. Do we gotta?
Clyde: Maybe you'd rather I should tell Bonnie on you?
No Fourth Wall: Zig-zagged throughout the series as many of the drivers look to the camera and converse with the show's announcer. Most notably in "The Wrong Lumber Race" when Dastardly tries to take over:
Dastardly: And now the Double Zero takes the lead, it's gaining on one, and—
Announcer: Hold it, hold it, I'll do the talking here, Dastardly. You do the driving!
Painted Tunnel, Real Train: In one episode, Dick Dastardly tries this trick to waylay an approaching Peter Perfect. Not only does Peter drive into the picture without ill effect, but a bus then drives out of it and runs over the apoplectic Dastardly.
At one point the car pulls out its own club and hits back just before completely falling apart.
Panty Shot: An episode has Penelope Pitstop with her laundry wind-drying from her car as she drives, and on the line we see a slip and a pair of panties.
Punny Name: The destination cities of some of the races include Ballpoint, Penn.; Deepinaharta, Texas; and Wotwill, Delaware.
Revival: A made-for-TV movie, Around the World With the Wacky Racers, was planned for 1988 (as part of the Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10 line of TV cartoon movies) but it was never carried out. The 1990 segment Fender Bender 500 (part of the series Wake, Rattle and Roll) is considered a revival of Wacky Races merely because it has Dastardly and Muttley in it. Also, Wacky Races Forever, an unsold pilot for Cartoon Network featuring the son and daughter of Peter and Penelope (who got married), plus Pat Pending (who, it seems, went gleefully insane, and who now seems willing to use attack abilities), plus a cute vampire girl and her companion subbing for the Gruesome Twosome.
Team Rocket Wins: Although Dastardly and Muttley never won a race in the original series (not even on a technicality), a few episodes of the Fender Bender 500 had them win for once. Even they were surprised.
In the Dreamcast version, going through the rigamarole of tasks necessary to unlock Dastardly is worth it just to win a race as him and listen to the narrator's either disgusted or bewildered reaction.
In the comic books, Dick won twice ("The Scavenger Scramble," Gold Key #7; "Trek to Tanzania," Archie Comics #1), but in each case there was a catch to the victory.
Lampshaded and subverted in "Whizzin' to Washington," in which Dastardly passes everyone en route to finish first without cheating only to suddenly stop:
Announcer: The Double Zero has yet to cross the finish line. What happened, Dick?
Dastardly: I stopped to give somebody my autograph.
Announcer: You're kidding. Who would want your autograph?
Dastardly: (pointing to Muttley, who holds a note pad with Dastardly's autograph) Him!!!
"See-Saw to Arkansas" had a similar lampshading/subversion; on the home stretch, Dick Dastardly is dead level with Red Max, the Gruesome Twosome, and Rufus Ruffcut, and the announcer declares that they will need a photo finish - a declaration which gets Dastardly's attention. When the photograph is taken, Red Max, the Gruesome Twosome and Rufus Ruffcut are shown to have taken first, second and third, respectively... while the Mean Machine has stopped just short of the finish line, and Dick Dastardly and Muttley are posing next to it. The announcer declares Dastardly a big ham, to which Dastardly and Muttley chuckle.
Dick and Muttley are about to cross the finish line first in "Speeding For Smogland", but it wouldn't count—due to a multi-car collision that catapults three other drivers from the vehicles, they wind up in the Arkansas Chuggabug. The narrator tells Dick and Muttley that crossing the finish line in the wrong car constitutes a disqualification.
Thememobile: All of the cars are themed on their drivers. The lumberjack drives a car with buzzsaw wheels, The Mafia drive a 1920s sedan, etc.
Those Magnificent Flying Machines: Most notably Red Max and his Crimson Haybailer, also Professor Pat Pending and his Convert-a-Car and the Gruesome Twosome's Creepy Coupe. On occasion, the other cars will take flight as well.
Weaponized Car: Most of the male racers have some kind of combat capability (a cannon, buzzsaws, a dragon...)
Wiper Start: In one episode, Sergeant Blast ends up in the Compact Pussycat [Penelope Pitstop's car]. Trying to stop it, he activates the controls that apply face powder and lipstick. Granted, these are not standard controls in a car, but it does raise the question of why he thought the brakes would be activated by a button on the dashboard. Meanwhile, over in the Army Surplus Special, Penelope winds up firing the cannon.
He doesn't drive; Meekly does. And given that all controls he deals with are by hand (firing stuff)...
You Didn't Ask: In "Baja-Ha-Ha Race", the Mean Machine gets stuck on mud until a donkey pulls it out. To make sure his rivals won't be as lucky, Dick Dastardly buys the donkey. When Penelope Pitstop gets stuck, the seller calls another donkey to pull her car. Dastardly protests that the seller didn't say he had another donkey and the seller replies that Dastardly didn't ask and he has several donkeys.